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May 1 – 3, 2020

Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA



VORTEXT is an extraordinary weekend salon at the famed Whidbey Institute, led by renowned women writers.

The program, now in its ninth year, gives writers the opportunity to connect in diverse and powerful small-group workshops. Writers also enjoy dynamic keynotes and discussions about opportunities and challenges for women who write, as well as several open mics over the course of the weekend.

Join us to share meals, conversation, and community in a stunningly beautiful setting.

“What happens when women get together in support of each other is so expansive and fierce.”

– VORTEXT participant


Dates: May 1-3, 2020
Location:Whidbey Institute | Whidbey Island, WA

Scholarship Deadlines:

Deadline to Apply: January 31

Scholarships Awarded: February 7

Partial Scholarship Payments Due: February 14




General Registration:

  • Early Bird March 5: $875
  • After March 5: $950

Cedar Deep Members

  • Early Bird by March 5: $825
  • After March 5: $900


Workshops and Teachers

Writing Rituals—Centering Your Writer Self Amid Chaos of Everyday Life

with Elmaz Abinader

Elmaz Abinader

Instructor Biography: Elmaz Abinader is an author and a performer. Her most recent poetry collection, This House, My Bones, was The Editor’s Selection for 2014 from Willow Books/Aquarius. Her books include a memoir: Children of the Roojme, A Family’s Journey from Lebanon, a book of poetry, In the Country of My Dreams… which won the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. Her plays include Ramadan Moon, 32 Mohammeds, and Country of Origin and have been performed worldwide, with a culminating performance at the Kennedy Center. She has a frequent contributor to Al-Jazeera English. She has been anthologized widely including the New Anthology of American Poetry, Radical Hope, Truth to Power, and in The Colors of Nature. Most recently her fiction has appeared in Fifth Wednesday and NimrodShe is currently completing a novel called Almost a Life, about a woman living in the Lebanese Civil War. Elmaz is one of the co-founders of The Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation (VONA/Voices) a writing workshop for writers-of-color. She teaches at Mills College and is an instructor at the Oakland Y.   www.elmazabinader.com 

Class Description: Tapping into our inspiration, finding our writing core, giving ourselves space to do our real work feels impossible. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. Our lives are packed, and our world is daunting. How can we sit in the quiet space of our minds and hearts when we are challenged on every level? How do we separate from the anxious world and move into ourselves? Particularly, how do we tap into our writer-selves and free them to write in a state of grace? Developing rituals that prepare us to write, that create transitions from the everyday, that quiet our souls, can help us cross the bridge to writing. By using guided meditations, writing exercises, and preparing our space, we will share quick and thoughtful ways to prepare to dive in. We will use our body, breath, space, and writing to practice writer-self-love and motivation. Whether we are approaching a new project or continuing a larger work, we discover ways to center ourselves, clear out the chaos, and spend at least a few hours in the place we love: writing.

Writing/Righting Our Lives: Releasing the Fear and Activating the Fierce

with Amy Ferris

Amy Ferris 2

Instructor Biography:

Amy Ferris is an author, editor, screenwriter and playwright. Her memoir, Marrying George Clooney, Confessions From A Midlife Crisis (Seal Press) was adapted into an Off-Broadway play at CAP21 Theater Company in 2012. She has written for both TV and film. Her screenplay, Funny Valentines, directed by Julie Dash (Daughters of the Dust) was nominated for a Best Screenplay award (STARZ/BET) in 2000. She co-wrote the film, Mr. Wonderful, directed by Anthony Minghella. Amy has contributed to numerous anthologies and magazines. She is the co-editor of the anthology, Dancing at The Shame Prom (Seal Press, 2012) and most recently the editor of SHADES OF BLUE, Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue (Seal Press, 2015). She is the author of the Young Adult novel, a greater goode (Houghton Mifflin, 2000). Amy writes a weekly column – WRighteous and she created The Ovary Office (in collaboration with Women’s eNews, which will be launching this coming September). She recently co-authored a book for Harper Collins, which will be published January 2020.

Class Description:

This is for all writers, all genres, all levels. This is for non-writers, or folks who don’t believe they are writers. This is for anyone. This class is not about the craft of writing, it is about the craft of living and telling our truth. The stories we keep hidden, out of view, tucked away. The stories in diaries and journals, scribbled on post-its and napkins that are in the back of a drawer hidden; the ones we are afraid to share. Those are the very stories we will bring to life and write about, the stories that will give us the freedom to write the book, the play, the memoir, the novel, the novella, the poem that we have longed to put out into the world. That needs to be out in the world. We will dig deep and excavate those stories through a writing exercise and a few prompts. By the end of this class, whatever was blocking you, holding you back – you will move through all of that – and you will be left unfettered with your story to tell. We will be companions and friends, collaborators; we will walk taller and be braver and find out that our stories not only save us but save others.

Storying the Self

with T Kira Madden

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Instructor Biography:

T Kira Madden is a writer, photographer, and amateur magician. A recipient of fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Hedgebrook, Tin House, the MacDowell Colony, and Yaddo, she serves as the founding Editor-in-chief of No Tokens, a magazine of literature and art. She is the author of the 2019 New York Times Editors’ Choice memoir, Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls, and currently teaches at Sarah Lawrence College.

Class Description:

How do we amplify the narrative electricity in the mundane? How do we take the sprawl of life and distill the right moments to deliver that umph of the most effective stories? This seminar will focus on distillation and compression. When a “traditional” narrative arc does not feel possible, the artist’s job is to write into the corners, to find spark in the simple acts of noticing, to create a satisfying set-up and payoff for readers. The scaffolding behind published works of “micro prose” will serve as blueprints and gateways for our writing exercises. We will discuss the structures and strategies one uses to render a piece of ourselves, and the compromises and thrills that come with it.

Finding your Character’s Voice with a Little Help from Acting

with Sarah Ladipo Manyika


Instructor Biography: Sarah is a writer, academic, and overall lover of stories. She was raised in Nigeria and has lived in Kenya, France, Zimbabwe, and England. Sarah is a novelist, short story writer, and essayist. Her debut novel, In Dependence, is an international bestseller while her second novel, Like a Mule Bringing Ice Cream to the Sun, has been translated into a number of languages. Sarah serves on Hedgebrook’s Board of Directors.

Class Description: We all know great characters when we meet them—they leap off the page like real people. But how do we write convincing, fully-fleshed characters that will linger in a reader’s mind long after they have finished reading? And how do we write convincingly of characters who are very different from us in life and experience? And how do we capture necessary nuance and complexity in our characters in a way that feels natural and seamless to the reader? In this workshop we will attempt to answer these questions in order to tap deeply into the voice of our characters. To help us do this, I will be drawing from lessons I have learned from actors. This is a workshop for everyone and requires no previous experience of acting.

Embodied Writing

with Victoria Redel


Instructor Biography: Victoria Redel is the author of five books of fiction and three books of poetry, most recently the novel Before Everything (Viking Penguin 2017), which the BBC has said is a novel that “brings to mind Virginia Woolf’s, The Waves.Loverboy was awarded the 2001 S. Mariella Gable Novel Award and the 2002 Forward Silver Literary Fiction Prize and was adapted for a feature film directed by Kevin Bacon. She has taught in the Graduate Writing Programs of Columbia University, Vermont College and was the 2013 McGee Professor at Davidson College. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The National Endowment For The Arts and the Fine Arts Work Center. Redel is on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College.

Class Description: To embody is to make tangible, to incorporate into a whole, to personify. In this generative session we will consider the stories held within our bodies, the stories that shape our bodies, the stories we hide from or deny genuine expression. How might we access, express, hold, celebrate, reshape and claim these essential stories and these voices in our writing. How might our bodies, like a true landscape lead us into the stories we most need to tell. And how might we begin to discover the written form or shape to hold these most important stories.

Speak the Truth: Write Like a Kid

with Anastacia-Renee




Instructor Biography:

Anastacia-Renee is a multi-genre writer, educator, and interdisciplinary artist. She is the recipient of the 2018, James W. Ray Distinguished Artist Award for Washington Artists (Artist Trust), and has served as the Seattle Civic Poet from 2017-2019, and the 2015-2017 Poet-in-Residence at Hugo House. Anastacia-Renee is a two-time Pushcart nominee and 2017 Artist of Year (Seattle). She is the author of five books: Forget It (Black Radish Books), (v.), (Black Ocean) 26, (Dancing Girl Press), Kiss Me Doll Face (Gramma Press) and Answer(Me) (Winged City Chapbooks, Argus Press) and has received writing fellowships and residencies from Cave Canem, Hedgebrook, VONA, Artist Trust, Jack Straw, Ragdale, Whiteley, Mineral School and Hypatia in the Woods. Her cross-genre writing has appeared in a TEDx talk and the anthologies: Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism, Sinister Wisdom: Black Lesbians—We Are the Revolution, Revise the Psalm: Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks and: Ms. Magazine, Split this Rock, Painted Bride Quarterly, Crab Creek Review, Seattle Review, The Fight & the Fiddle, Duende, Poetry Northwest, Synaethesia, Banqueted, Torch, Mom Egg Review, The Magazine of Glamorous Refusal, Pinwheel Journal, and many more. She teaches poetry and multi-genre workshops at Hugo House, libraries, universities, and high schools.

Class Description: We will be guided by our inner children to inspire writing that sees the world through rose-colored glasses—and simultaneously speaks unfiltered truth. Using “kid” supplies like crayons, stickers, children’s books, cartoons, and games, we will remind ourselves that we are still capable of joyfulness, vulnerability, and unconditional love. We will use that state of mind to write poetry and prose that reflects that child within us, now living in the adult world.


The Whidbey Institute is set amidst a 106-acre conservation forest campus on South Whidbey Island featuring integrated gardens, a four-mile public trail network, and comfortable lodging, dining, and gathering facilities.


The Whidbey Institute at Chinook has a limited number of rooms available on a first-come-first served basis. Please follow this link for more information about the Whidbey Institute’s accommodations.

Whidbey Institute. Once you have registered for Vortext, you will receive an automated email receipt with a link to the Whidbey Institute’s website where you may make your accommodations reservation and payment online. The Whidbey Institute handles all accommodation selection and payment. If you have a question about lodging, you may contact the Whidbey Institute at (360) 341-1884 for general information about the Whidbey Institute’s accommodations.

When booking at the Whidbey Institute, there is a 3-night minimum (Thursday, April 29 – Saturday, May 2). Checkout is by noon on Sunday, May 3.

Whidbey Institute’s accommodations cancellation policy: For all accommodations, a full refund will be given until April 5, 2020; cancellation after April 5 will forfeit the full amount. Please note that the Whidbey Institute handles all accommodation payments and refunds. Please contact them directly for information at (360) 341-1884.


Off-site Accommodations: Participants may choose to stay at an Inn, Bed & Breakfast, or Hotel on South Whidbey. The link below will take you to information on local accommodations. With advance notice, we can provide a shuttle to pick you up and return you to your offsite accommodations daily.  If you would like to request the daily shuttle pickup, please look for accommodations in either the City of Langley, Freeland near Highway 525, or Clinton within 10 miles of the Whidbey Institute (6449 Old Pietila Road, Clinton WA 98236). In addition, there are several local listings on Airbnb and VRBO.


Download a list of off-site accommodations (PDF)


For questions about accommodations at the Whidbey Institute, please call them at (360) 341-1884. For other questions, please email us at vortext@hedgebrook.org or call (360) 321-4786.

Daily Schedule  –  May 1 – 3, 2020

8:30 AM: Breakfast

9:30 – 10:30 AM:  Keynotes by Teachers

There will be two or three keynotes each day.

10:45 AM – 1 PM: Daily Workshops

Break out into one of six workshop/discussions. Session includes writing exercises.

1 PM: Lunch

Afternoon:  free writing time

3:30 PM:  Panel discussions with Teachers organized around each day’s Keynotes

5 – 6 PM: Wine & cheese reception (Fri, Sat & Sun)    Open Mic with reception (Sat & Sun)

Registration Details

* Registration includes: all keynotes and three workshops of your choice, group sessions and free time to write as well as breakfast, lunch, and daily reception.

See the accommodations details in the Accommodations tab.

* Registration for VORTEXT is through a third-party site. Full payment is due at the time of registration. Please call (360) 321-4786 for any questions or concerns, or if you need help with your registration.

* Cancellation policy for registration: a full refund less a 20% fee will be given until March 25; cancellation after March 25 will forfeit the full amount.

* Cancellation policy for accommodations: a full refund will be given if notice is received at least two weeks prior to the beginning of the session. Please note that the Whidbey Institute handles all accommodation payments and refunds. Please contact them directly for information.


If you have questions or if you are planning to give this experience as a gift, please contact us by phone at 360-321-4786 or email our office at hedgebrook@hedgebrook.org.

Planning for VORTEXT:


Thursday, April 30 – You can pick up your Registration Packets from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall at the Whidbey Institute. Hedgebrook staff will welcome you, and if you are staying at the Whidbey Institute, they will check you in and show you to your accommodations. If you plan to stay at the Whidbey Institute Thursday night, please arrive no later than 7:00 PM. 


For those flying in: we will pick you up from the Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle (Langley/Clinton stop) at the times listed in the following section and take you to your lodging.


Friday, May 1 – Registration will open at 7:30 AM in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall at the Whidbey Institute. If you are already registered, you can go directly to breakfast, which will be served from 8:30-9:15 AM.



All breakfasts, lunches, snacks during the day, and our evening wine receptions are included in the registration fee. Dinners are on your own. In previous years, Vortexters have made reservations for an outing on the town, shared potluck dinners in the kitchens of the various lodgings, or brought in pizza.  For those staying at the Whidbey Institute Thursday night, we will provide a light meal, which you can pick up at registration.



Books by all the teachers will be on sale Friday and Saturday in the lobby of Thomas Berry Hall. There will be a book signing during one of the receptions.



We encourage you to bring a book for the VORTEXT Book Exchange. This can be a work of your own which has been published or something by a favorite author. Exchange this book for a new title, in other words: leave one and take one. The book you bring can be either paperback or hardcover. We hope you will find that this is yet another way to experience exposure to the work women writers are doing in the world.



10:00 PM Quiet Time – We request quiet time after 10:00 PM in all shared housing facilities. We ask that you be respectful of fellow residents’ differing needs for sleep and quiet time. There are areas available for those who like to visit into the wee hours. There is a beautiful outdoor pavilion and also the courtyard outside Thomas Berry Hall.



Once you know your travel details, send your information to vortext@hedgebrook.org, including:

Arrival Day/Time

Mode of Transportation (Airport shuttle, Ferry walk-on, Car).

Lodging – Whidbey Institute, Other/specify

With advance notice, we can arrange to pick you up at the Langley/Clinton shuttle stop or the ferry landing in Clinton on the day of your arrival, and drop you off on the day of your departure. 



By Plane/ Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle –

Arrivals – arrange to fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Thursday, April 30 and take the Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle service to the Langley/Clinton stop where we will pick you up and take you to the Whidbey Institute, or your offsite accommodations (if pre-arranged). Schedule a ride on the 12:45 PM, 2:45 PM or 4:45 PM shuttle from the airport, which which will arrive at the Langley stop at 2:20 PM, 4:20 PM or 6:20 PM respectively.


Departures – Sunday, May 3 – If you are heading to the airport after the final reception (which takes place at Hedgebrook), reserve the 5:55 PM shuttle from the Freeland stop, which is scheduled to arrive at the airport at 7:30 PM


Shuttle Reservations are required for the shuttle service. It runs throughout the day, but sometimes sells out in advance. Check the shuttle schedule BEFORE booking your flight to coordinate arrival time with shuttle departure times, and book your shuttle passage as soon as you book your flight. It is best to arrive in Seattle no later than noon on Thursday to connect with the 12:45 PM shuttle.


From the airport, the shuttle will drive onto a ferry in Mukilteo, pass over to Clinton on Whidbey Island, and deliver you to Langley, the shuttle stop closest to the Whidbey Institute. You may make your Whidbey-SeaTac Shuttle reservation online at www.seatacshuttle.com, or by calling toll-free (877) 679-4003.


By Walking across on the Ferry –

Arrivals – You will need to be dropped off in the boarding area for the Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry. The ferries run approximately every half hour. You can find the details of ferry schedules and fares online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. We will provide a shuttle from the ferry to the Whidbey Institute and Langley on Thursday from the 3:05 PM, 4:05 PM and 5:10 PM boats and on Friday morning from the 7:30 AM boat.  Please contact us to pre-arrange a ferry pickup.


Once you disembark in Clinton, walk to the end of the dock and past the tollbooth, we will be parked at the passenger waiting area (side road) and will be waiting for you near the crosswalk if you have pre-arranged a pickup.


Departures – We will provide a shuttle to the 6:35 PM ferry on Sunday night, or to Langley or Freeland accommodations (if pre-arranged).


By Car –

From Seattle, take I-5 north and exit on WA SR 525/Mukilteo Clinton. Drive 9.3 miles to the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry terminal.


From Vancouver BC or Bellingham, take I-5 south and take exit #189 for the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry. Drive past the Boeing plant, straight through the first traffic signal, and turn RIGHT at the second traffic signal at Mukilteo Speedway. Stay in the right hand lane following signs to Mukilteo/Clinton ferry, there is one more right turn at the light at the bottom of the hill (gas station on right). Follow this route 2 more miles to the ferry terminal.


From Bellevue/Eastside take I-405 North, crossing over I-5 and continue west on SR 525. Follow this route 9 miles to the Mukilteo/Clinton ferry terminal.


Mukilteo/Clinton Ferry Info

The ferry departs from Mukilteo on the hour and half-hour. In order to arrive at the Whidbey Institute during registration on Thursday, you’ll want to be on a boat between 1:30 and 6:10 PM. Plan to be in the ferry line at least an hour beforehand to compensate for ferry lines, which are common this time of year. If you are arriving on Friday, you’ll need to be on a boat no later than 7:30 AM if you want to join us in time for registration and breakfast.


Once you arrive in Clinton follow the main road, which is still SR 525, for about two miles until you reach the stoplight at Cultus Bay Road. Turn LEFT onto Cultus Bay and travel approximately .7 of a mile to Campbell Road. Turn RIGHT onto Campbell Road and travel approximately .5 of a mile. On the LEFT you will see signs for Whidbey Institute and Chinook. Turn LEFT at these signs onto Old Pietila Road, which is a gravel road.


Follow Old Pietila Road downhill through the forest about a half a mile. You will see a parking lot at the bottom of a hill. Please park here unless for mobility reasons it is important to be closer (please let us know ahead of time if you plan to park close to Thomas Berry Hall so we can reserve you a parking space). Walk up the hill, following the curved roadside fence, until you see Thomas Berry Hall and the main office on your left.



  • WRITING: Bring the writing instrument of your choice (journal, laptop, notebook). We will have blank pads of paper and pens available for your use.  If you teachers have specific suggestions about what to bring for their class, we will email you.
  • ATTIRE: VORTEXT is casual with an accent on comfort. Depending on the weather, dressing in layers may be helpful to stay comfortable at the Institute. You may also want to throw in a comfy pair of slippers – when it’s muddy outside, slippers keep your socks dry, not to mention cozier! Rain gear/umbrellas are always a good idea.
  • HAIRDRYER: If you stay at the Institute, you may want to bring a hairdryer.
  • PETS: We love animals but please leave your dog at home.  Whidbey Institute has a no pet policy, please contact us with any questions.

Feel free to contact us if you have other questions by calling the Hedgebrook office at (360) 321-4786 or email vortext@hedgebrook.org.

Scholarships applications are closed.

If you have questions or if you are planning to give this experience as a gift, please contact us by phone at (360) 321-4786 or email our office at hedgebrook@hedgebrook.org.